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Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday banned the social media platform TikTok from use on government cellphones and computers, becoming the latest Republican governor to target the video-sharing app over cybersecurity concerns.
Abbott expressed concern that TikTok posed a threat to government information, as the app is owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd. Last week, FBI Director Chris Way expressed concern that the Chinese government could use app recommendation algorithms to manipulate content or users. He warned that the Chinese government does not share US values and said "this should concern us."
In 2021, the video-sharing app that popularized the dance trend and spawned viral challenges had about 87 million users in the United States. The federal government has been warning about TikTok's security risks for years. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app.
The Republican governors of South Dakota, South Carolina and Maryland have banned the use of TikTok on government devices. Wisconsin Republicans have asked their Democratic governor to do the same.
In a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker David Phelan and heads of government agencies, Abbott said banning TikTok on government cellphones, laptops, tablets and desktops would protect sensitive information and critical infrastructure from the Chinese government.
"TikTok collects vast amounts of data from its users' devices, including when, where and how they engage in online activity, and presents this wealth of potentially sensitive information to the Chinese government," Abbott's letter said.
Abbott acknowledged that TikTok says its data is stored in the U.S., but expressed concern that the Chinese government could use the app to track U.S. citizens.
The governor directed the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Information Resources to develop a plan to address the issue of TikTok use on public employees' personal devices. One of the areas Abbott mentioned is network restrictions that would prevent access to TikTok within the agency.
Abbott left some flexibility in banning the social media, allowing government agencies to use TikTok for law enforcement investigations and "other legitimate purposes."
The Indiana attorney general sued TikTok on Wednesday, alleging the company misled users about how it could access their data, the New York Times reported. The lawsuit also alleges that the app provides access to adult content to minors.
Earlier this year, the Austin Business Journal reported that TikTok leased more than 125,000 square feet of office space in Austin.
Disclosure: The New York Times has provided financial support to the Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization funded by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Funders have no role in Tribune reporting. Get their full list here.
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